Coerced by the Galactic Empire or liberated by the Rebel Alliance, droids are the galaxy's fateful friend.
Does darkness rise again in the Star Wars galaxy? This is a question every fan is anxious to learn from The Last Jedi. What we do know is that the galaxy’s destiny doesn’t rely on one person. In fact, it is often influenced by some helpful droids.
One of the most likable characters in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the 2016 installment of the Lucasfilm’s series of blockbuster space epics, is not a person at all - he’s a KX-series security droid developed by the Galactic Empire.
Stolen and reprogrammed (the Star Wars way of saying hacked!) by the Rebel Alliance, K-2SO provides not only tactical support for our heroes, but comic relief for the audience in the form of sarcastic, deadpan wit delivered in a dry British accent. Contrasted against his imposing 7-foot-tall, gun-metal grey figure, his laid-back demeanor is endlessly amusing.
Rogue One is hardly the first sci-fi story to give a human persona to artificial intelligence. Hopelessly depressed and pessimistic, Marvin the Paranoid Android sulks his way around space in Douglass Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. GLaDOS, a sentient and extremely narcissistic computer program in the Portal video game series, endlessly berates the player with her passive-aggressive taunts.
This sort of character development can bring artificially intelligent personas out of the “uncanny valley:” the disconcerting emotional response elicited when robots and AI are nearly, but not completely humanoid. A hyperrealistic human personality contrasted against a traditional robotic form, like K-2SO’s lanky appendages and minimal facial detail, provides the viewer with a relatable character that is distinctly non-human.
Even though many of today’s voice-activated personal assistants are programmed to deliver humorous responses at times, artificial intelligence with unique character traits is still relegated to science fiction. However, Rogue One uses K-2SO to highlight a very-real risk of AI: the susceptibility to cyberattack.
K-2SO was manufactured and programmed to protect the Galactic Empire. But, with a bit of coding ingenuity, the Rebels are able to turn him into an ally in their fight to overthrow the very entity he was built to defend. Military defections have always been a risk of warfare, but what happens when the soldier can simply be reprogrammed, instead of being convinced, coerced or forced? What if the rogue program is physically indistinguishable from an army of identical security droids?
Non-military AI applications can be just as prone to threats. A hacked home security system could put families in harm’s way. A compromised manufacturing bot could cause massive profit loss. A predictive modeling program could be altered to present erroneous information and influence critical decision-making.
Ultimately, AI can be just as fallible as humans. Whether the implications extend to national defense, business and manufacturing, or home security, it is essential to minimize these risks. As artificial intelligence technology expands into military, industrial and personal applications, it is absolutely paramount that cybersecurity measures are prioritized and executed throughout development.
Thales occupies a unique position in both of these fields. As an industry leader in cybersecurity solutions, we are able to develop dedicated security measures alongside our AI programs, and integrate them at every step of the process. Thales’ e-Security business; newly formed Centre of Research and Technology in Artificial Intelligence eXpertise (cortAIx); and recent acquisition of Guavus – a leader in real-time Big Data analytics; together help minimize risk and ensure that humans can count on AI technology to help them in their decisive moments. By developing a perfect understanding of the mechanisms behind AI, analyzing human interaction with AI and building complex cybersecurity measures to protect AI, Thales can help make life better and keep us safer as the world moves toward an AI future.
Whatever it takes, Thales is there are there to master complexity in decisive moments – and make sure darkness doesn’t rise in our galaxy!